Happy Accident: Jalapeño Honey Chicken
My 2013 mid-year resolution has been to cook at least two new recipes a week. It’s harder than it sounds. Immediately crossed off the list were Thursdays and Saturdays, two days in which I host dinner events. And of course Sunday because, well, anyone who has the ganas to go beyond a two block radius from their bed to do anything but search for Chinese food by the kilo, a vacio sandwich, or empies is human of the year in my book. It’s winter; I take day of rest pretty seriously.
What was left was Monday through Wednesday, which are also days that I don’t have a whole lot of time to spend cooking. The solution: planning and preparing everything ahead of time. Also a lot harder than it sounds. In the process I’ve rediscovered the power of the marinade and baking!
This particular sauce was a happy accident. The moment that I decided on my new goal I wanted to start, now. I looked inside my fridge and found mostly nothing: the back half of a chicken (a general source of confusion for me), some leftover jalapeño salsa and about a cup full of strawberry smoothie. It was one of those moments that most cooks revel in. Throw together a bunch of completely random ingredients and cross your fingers that what comes out is edible. And if your Frankenstein project happens to be a culinary masterpiece, TELL EVERYONE.
And that’s exactly what I’m doing. After letting these thighs and legs marinate overnight in a sauce made of equal parts jalapeño salsa, honey and strawberry and blueberry juice, my eyes nearly popped out of their head with that first bite. The initial flavor that hits the taste buds is the sticky sweetness of the honey mixed with the juice. And then, what I crossed my fingers for, a jolt of picante from all that jalapeño. It was the kind of spice that makes you brush off your brow with a paper towel. Very rarely do I pick at the bones but I couldn’t help but tear off every single morsel of chicken.
To make this marinade you will need the following:
For the salsa: six jalapeños, 10 cloves of garlic, ¼ cup of lemon juice, ½ canola oil. Roast jalapeño and garlic (with the skin) until blackened. Peel skin, roughly chop jalapeños (I don’t devein or seed) and throw in the blender with lemon juice. Blend while slowly incorporating the oil. My previous My Beautiful Air contributions have also included this sauce. It’s not because I sport a stiff one for jalapeños per se, it just happens to be one of the only available fresh chilis that I come across with such ease. You could easily substitute this with local rocoto or aji amarillo. I’d recommend not leaving all the rocoto seeds in. This will yield more than half cup of salsa. Reserve remaining, add some water to thin out to make a nice hot sauce. The seeds will be so potent that the water will make little difference in the spice department.
To make the juice: take 100 grams of fresh blueberries, a quarter kilo of strawberry and juice from 2 large oranges. Blend it up. This will also yield more than a half cup. I like to add an equal part gas water to the leftover smoothie, trust me.
Mix up half cup each of jalapeño salsa, fruit smoothie and honey. Place chicken thighs and legs (cleaned and patted dry with paper towel) in a casserole dish or ziplock bag and incorporate sauce. Make sure to get some marinade underneath the chicken skin. Cover and set in refrigerator. I let mine sit for about 24 hours, making the marinade in the morning and letting it set for the day also works.
The blueberry really takes over the color and taste of the marinade. When I tasted it on its own it was a strange mix of blueberry and roasted garlic. The flavors fought with each other for my attention. But after baking in the oven for about an hour on medium heat, the chicken juices changed the color to a dark brown, thinned out the smoothie and honey and the sweet fruit and spicy jalapeños became the best of friends.
If you’re a chicken breast kind of person, I’d recommend cooking the chicken completely submerged in the sauce. To do this cut the breast through the middle. You can bake in the oven or simmer over the stove. The chicken breast really absorbs the sauce and when cook for just the right amount of time (about an hour) the meat shreds easily and makes the perfect taco filling.